Is class identity a thing anymore?

| Thursday, August 29, 2013
In the beginning, I was a troll shaman. This blog is named for their exceptionally terrible racial ability of Regeneration, which at that time allowed them to continue a whopping 10% of their out-of-combat healing, which was based on spirit. Thankfully, back in those days everything, including warrior gear, had spirit on it. So we could regenerate our awe-inspiring 5 hp per second. Though really it would have been 25 hp every 5 seconds, because that's how things were: mana/5 and hp/5. I don't recall the numbers anymore, but I suspect that 5 hp is a generous amount, despite being terrible, even back then. I'll be honest, the results of this Google search were a mix of nostalgia and not finding myself for three pages. But at least thing the I was searching for is archived: "Troll Regeneration must be nerfed."

For some reason I hung out a lot on the paladin forums. The shaman forums in vanilla were an awful place, full of people whining that shamans were OP (20% of the time, sometimes). The paladins were, of course, our rivals. So I made silly posts there and ending up finding a few friends. I eventually played with them for years until an epic betrayal and some epic fail, the latter being my own fault. When BC rolled around I found myself making a blood elf paladin, because why not? My shaman slowly faded out, finally dying to a pair of tanking bracers in Karazhan. Since then I've played a paladin, with other classes being little more than distractions.

I loved class-based quests. I chased them down. I didn't care about the usefulness of the reward, or eventually, the necessity of the quest for getting the reward, as in the case of druid flight form. Until I'd done those quests I felt that I was an illegitimate member of the class, like when you're the bastard child of the king and cannot claim the throne until you complete the quest chain to murder all your siblings.

As Erinys says in "Proving your Worth: Why Class quests had value",
What I loved about all three of these quests was the fact that they made you think about what it meant to play that specific class. Not only in terms of playstyle although all three required you to explore your spell book, perhaps the Druid and Hunter more so than the Priest, although plenty of people I knew did take Holy Nova especially for the quest but also from an RP perspective if you wished to indulge it.
These quests weren't just quests. They were a matter of class identity, of exploration of the world and character, of learning how to play.

Class quests interact in an odd manner with the concept of class identity. If we identify strongly with a particular class, then we're likely to play it more, to the exclusion of other classes. This means that under a scenario of strong class identity class quests are going to have a small audience, with a small proportion of the population getting the relevant class to the needed level to take advantage of it. Yet the quests themselves may help to cement the identity.

However, if class identity isn't a thing for much of the player population, with few people imagining themselves as primarily playing a particular class, then the class quests may become widely experienced. If play time is spread out more, then it is more likely that players will get their rogues to Ravenholt and their priests to the Plaguelands. Weaker class identity makes class quests more generally used, and therefore more justifiable from an eyeballs per developer dollar perspective. I'm assuming you're all using the latest eye-tracking technology for your gaming; the precision of movement is jaw-dropping, just like mage DPS (and just like my ability to make obscure jokes out of side comments by developers years ago).

The general theme is that if we don't particularly identify as a class, or maybe more importantly, identify as not the other classes, then it doesn't matter as much which class gets the cool toys. If we're as much a priest as a rogue, then are we going to mind much if the rogue update comes before the priest update?

But of course all this semi-sociological identity stuff means nothing if your raid leader wants you to pick, gear, and learn how to play a particular class. (do people still do organized raids?) One class will get leveled a little faster, have a little more luck with gear, be a little bit stronger, and you'll gravitate toward it. Once that happens, then it snowballs, with one always being ahead and therefore better able to get more ahead. While the rest can gear up by other means, that means more time, and sadly, everyone is forced to stop being a college student with next to unlimited time to play games. In the end you're playing a priest, not because your raid leader said so, but because your boss said you can't play at work and your kids refuse to use the can opener in a safe manner.

Something I didn't consider in my first run is that while strong identity will reduce the number of people who do a class quest, I expect that it would also tend to increase enjoyment. The class identity is part of what makes it more interesting than any other quest. Many quests send you around the world, but how many do it specifically because you're a shaman making drugs to find magical sticks? If we're willing to give some weight to actual enjoyment rather than mere play, then it can even turn out positive: few people see, but those who do enjoy it a lot more. As long as everyone gets a nifty quest there won't even be an issue of fairness.


Jarrod said...

I'll say this. My most memorable moment in playing WoW will always be the quest chain to get my hands on Verigans Fist. Especially defending the farm solo. Took me a few tries as that was my first toon but I refused to get help. Good times.

More or less cemented my paladinishness, especially now that I have no free time and my other alts are left gathering dust unleveled or wearing greens. Alas.

Klepsacovic said...

That's an odd way to get a weapon. I recall I murdered a few failures from my class to get my blood knight weapon. Or maybe I just beat them up. You wouldn't believe what I did to get my mount... Let's just say it really cemented the uh, harsh nature of the Blood Elves and blood knights in particular. Even other elves thought we were extremist.

Sadly, I never got to do my own Alliance-side mount quest, though I did get to help someone with the part in the Scholomance basement.

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